• Peter Lawrence

Day Seven - Privacy, Ethics, and More Research

As we carry on further into the Institute, it is exciting to see the rate at which students are improving. We have shifted a heavier focus into research, and students are doing an excellent job finding articles and essays for their respective cases. We asked for them to send in their research to us at the end of the day today. Tonight, we will compile their research into one impressive file. Students will be welcome to do additional research tomorrow, but this way it will equalize the playing field, giving everyone access to the hard work people have done to ensure we have the most productive debates possible during the tournament. This is similar to the strategy the Lexington Debate Team employs; using the size of the team to our strength has been critical to our regional and national success over the years.

Some labs had the opportunity to learn about surveillance policy and the pros and cons of privacy, security, and more. This set the stage for mini-debates over our last mini-topic. Other labs spent more time on ethical frameworks, discussing utilitarianism and deontology. The older lab had the chance to delve into more difficult thought experiments, where we distinguished between normative ethics, the study of what ought be done, and descriptive ethics, the study of how we use ethics given structural conditions of society. Descriptive ethics takes into account systemic racism, sexism, classism, and more. Acknowledging these prejudices and implicit biases in our decision-making is crucial to challenge our understanding of ethics and make us better problem solvers.

Today was the first day we had to keep everyone inside during lunch, as it had begun to drizzle. Students still had the opportunity to play board games, card games, and socialize. Hopefully the weather will be nicer for the rest of the week!

Coming in from lunch, some labs were able to approach systemic issues from another angle: critiquing assumptions. We introduced the concept of the kritik, another form of argumentation. Instead of operating on an agnostic level like a disadvantage (where one might read an impact and explain its significance, but the argument itself would just be a cause-and-effect explanation of a negative consequence of the case), a kritik critiques the implicit assumptions behind an argument and unpacks them, challenging these assumptions. This synthesized with our earlier discussion on ethical frameworks to establish a deeper understanding of the argument.

Of course, we spent much of the day researching, and let students take breaks every once in a while to ensure they were able to stay energized and focused. From more fun games like Mafia to useful enrichment activities like helping students visualize themselves throwing their voice to different objects in room (and other conceptual exercises that build presentation skills), we had a number of strategies to keep kids involved while letting them have some time off from research.

I hope your children are not coming home to you stressed about research; they should know that we will be treating this tournament as a way to practice debating, not a competition. As always, reach out to us with questions or comments at

#privacy #minidebates #ethics #research #delivery #kritiks


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